DECATHLON SPORT RULES


DECATHLON rules title

OBJECTIVE OF DECATHLON: Score the most points possible over ten separate track and field events.

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: No set limit

MATERIALS: Athletic attire

TYPE OF GAME: Sport

AUDIENCE: 11+


OVERVIEW OF DECATHLON

Decathlon is a Summer Olympic event that showcases athletes competing in ten different track and field events over two consecutive days. Due to the versatile skillsets needed to excel in all ten events, the winner of a decathlon is often touted as the world’s greatest athlete.

The concept of the decathlon originated from the five-event pentathlon held in the Ancient Greek Olympic Games. In this event, competitors would compete in a short sprint, long jump, discus throw, javelin throw, and wrestling. Although the pentathlon is still part of the modern Olympic Games (albeit with slightly different events), the Ancient Greeks never held an actual decathlon.

In the middle ages, the Norse Vikings were known to hold multi-event competitions that involved contrasting themes of athleticism and pure strength. Similar contests sprang up in England and Ireland as early as the 1600s, many of which took inspiration from the original Olympic pentathlon.

It wasn’t until the 1884 United States Amateur Championships that the modern decathlon truly took root. In the competition’s “all-around” event, competitors were tasked with completing a list of track and field events in succession. This quickly grew into a ten-sport competition that included running, walking, jumping, and throwing events.

Soon after its inception, the decathlon was given its own points system to score competitors. And in 1912, the decathlon was finally included at the Olympic Games held in Sweden, with competition organizers looking for ways to include as many multi-event sports as possible. The decathlon events chosen for the 1912 Olympics are still used today.

Decathlon is reserved for only men. However, the heptathlon is a 7-event version of the decathlon that women compete in.

SETUP

DECATHLON events

EQUIPMENT

The only equipment a decathlete needs is their clothing, which is typically the same as other track and field competitors. A comfortable and tight-fitting shirt, shorts, and running shoes are all that is necessary to compete in a decathlon.

Other equipment is required for specific decathlon events, such as poles for the pole vault event and hurdles for the 110m hurdles.

EVENTS

A decathlon consists of ten different events held on two consecutive days (five events per day). There’s track events, jumping events, and more.

DAY ONE

  • 100m Dash – A short-distance sprint
  • Long Jump – Jump the farthest distance possible with a running start
  • Shot Put – Throw a 16-pound ball further than all other competitors
  • High Jump – Jump over a bar held high off the ground
  • 400m Dash – A single-lap race

DAY TWO

  • 110m Hurdles – A short-distance sprint with ten hurdles to jump over
  • Discus Throw – Throw a 4.4-pound discus (disc-shaped item) as far as possible
  • Javelin Throw – Throw an 8-foot-long javelin the farthest distance possible
  • 1500m Run – A nearly one-mile run

GAMEPLAY

DECATHLON race

SCORING

Decathlon uses a scoring system that converts an athlete’s performance in any given event into points. This points system is in place because different events use different measurements of performance—time finished, distance thrown, distance jumped, and height cleared.

This scoring system uses a somewhat complex mathematical formula to determine how many points a particular performance is worth. To simplify this, there is an entire scoring table made by World Athletics (formerly IAAF) that charts a point value for every possible finishing time or distance thrown/jumped.  

You can use this calculator to calculate the decathlon scores.

The following is a list of the maximum points an athlete can score in each decathlon event:

  • 100m Dash – 9.50 seconds = 1223 points
  • Long Jump – 9.49 meters = 1461 points
  • Shot Put – 23.99 meters = 1350 points
  • High Jump – 2.59 meters = 1392 points
  • 400m Dash – 41.47 seconds = 1250 points
  • 110m Hurdles – 12.00 seconds = 1249 points
  • Discus Throw – 79.41 meters = 1500 points
  • Pole Vault – 6.49 meters = 1396 points
  • Javelin Throw  – 102.85 meters = 1400 points
  • 1500m Run – 3:22.23 (3 minutes and 22 seconds) = 1250 points

A decathlete’s final points total is the sum of all of their event scores added together.

WORLD RECORD DECATHLON PERFORMANCE

Frenchman Kevin Mayer is credited with setting the world record for points scored in a decathlon competition in 2018. In this competition, he scored a total of 9,126 points.

If all decathlon bests were added together, the sum would be 10,630 points.

To put that in perspective, if the world records for each individual decathlon event were added together, such as using Usain Bolt’s 9.58 world record time for the 100m dash, this point total would currently be at 12,598.

THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHLETES

Decathlon competitors are often considered some of the greatest athletes on the planet. This is because of how versatile and well-rounded they must be in 10 different events that require completely contrasting skill sets. 

For example, a 100m dash sprinter who needs to exert maximal power as quickly as possible is usually lean, muscular, and has great leg strength. A 1500m runner would ideally have to sacrifice some of the muscle a sprinter would have and instead try to weigh less to maximize their endurance capabilities. Meanwhile, a discus, javelin, and shot put competitor would want to have a large frame, weigh a considerable amount, and have excellent upper-body strength to maximize how far they can throw. 

These contrasting builds essentially mean a decathlete can never be exceptional at every event they compete in. Some decathletes score very highly in the running events, while others do best in the throwing ones. Having the versatility to compete at a high level in various contrasting events is a feat reserved only for the best athletes the world has to offer.

WOMEN’S HEPTATHLON

As mentioned above, the decathlon is an event only competed in by men. For this reason, all throwing events are suited to the men’s standards, such as using a 16-pound shot put. 

However, women have their own version of the decathlon, known as the heptathlon. This seven-event competition is structured and scored very similarly to the decathlon and includes the events of 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m dash, javelin throw, long jump, and 800m run.

END OF GAME

The decathlete who has the highest points total at the end of all ten events is the winner of the decathlon.

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